The Cult of Niceness

cult of niceness

The Cult of Niceness is an umbrella term that I use to describe many different behaviors and ideas. I first noticed the problem when I was only a child. Observing adults I was able to notice that they sometimes put on an appearance of niceness in order to cloak some other agenda. I began to understand that ‘nice’ was sometimes just a deceptive ruse used to manipulate others in some way. Usually just to create an image of themselves for others who did not know them well enough to see through it. Other times it was in order to coerce people into thinking, saying or doing what they wanted thought, said or done.  I quickly noted that often the attempt to appear nice was actually just a form of passive aggressiveness that somehow worked, no matter how obvious the charade seemed to me. And I quickly refused to play into that disingenuine mindgame myself.

As a result people often think I am either an asshole, socially unrefined or both. Genuine authentic honesty is a virtue we all pay lip service to, but most people are repulsed when they actually encounter it. The very same qualities that would cause people to label me also made me immune to their classifications. Integrity and consistency generally only feel good to the person attaining them, and painful to those whose cognitive dissonance they incite. People will then push you to admit to some kind of self-loathing in order to gratify themselves, and if you do not concede they will tell you that you think you are better than them and everyone else. I have never been concerned with popularity contests or other competitions. I am not trying to be better than anyone else. I am trying to be the best possible me. Along the way I am trying to assist others in being the best possible selves they can be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the more we all improve ourselves, the more peaceful, harmonious and joyful the world we share will be. So I refuse to apologize for being who I am, even if you don’t like it, or if it makes you like yourself less.

The Cult of Niceness (CON) is predicated on peoples insecurities. It is self-doubt and existential malaise regurgitated in statements synonymous with suburban mommy talk. It is the special snowflake speech mounted on the hood of day-to-day life like cattle horns on an oil magnates Cadillac.  It is an attempt to be rewarded, validated and gratified for doing absolutely nothing deserving of those responses. The most insidious part being that not only is the behavior fake and deceptive, it also takes advantage of other peoples falsehoods and self-deception. People who like themselves do not feel the need to bully others into artificial niceties through such manufactured discrepancies. While everybody knows that the person the bully always loathes most is their self. And make no doubt, insisting that others perform the same CON roles that you are trapped in is just a form of social bullying.

Social media has, like it has with everything else, magnified this human weakness to stupendous proportions. The CON is what drives most online interactions. One of the most common behaviors that makes this apparent is the act of sharing self-deprecating thoughts in order to get rewarded, validated and gratified for an apparent act of humbleness that is actually just manipulative neediness. People will describe their weaknesses, failures or other unfavorable quirks in the hope that it will get them attention. They will self-loathe in order to fish out compliments. They will don a mask of vulnerability and timid dislike for themselves just so that others will respond to them in ways that help them identify themselves as superior to others. The CON has created an ideology that suggests that superiority comes in the form of humble self-deprecation. But oddly enough, only people who really do dislike themselves can be fooled into thinking that appearing to dislike themselves makes them better than everyone else.

Numerous messages online tell us that all we need is love and that if only we were all nice the world would be a perfect place. These oversimplistic reductionisms are dangerously ignorant. Not only because they deny the value humanity receives from a complex range of behaviors, but because they also suggest that niceness is a quality only measured in appearances. People do cruel things all of the time in order to achieve the most positive possible outcomes. If you have never hurt someones feelings with your honesty in order to save them an even greater pain, then you probably have never really loved somebody all that much. Friends and family members rely on one another to deliver harsh truths that would save them from entering treachery hiding in their own blind spots.

Given that our world has become riddled with so much conceptual ignorance, we have created great areas of blindness that threaten humanity at large. Pointing out the misconceptions and false premises that these blind spots are predicated on is itself a great kindness to our entire species. But when you fail to stroke peoples delusions or confirm their biases or point out all of this behavior their reaction is usually just to label you an asshole or as socially unrefined. By protecting themselves from the abrasive cognitive dissonance you would cause them in the name of niceness, people are poking holes in their own raft and calling it a waterpark. When people have more desire not to feel like they were wrong than they do to actually try and be right, it becomes impossible to reach them. The truth often does hurt, and those who put niceness before growing pains are wearing their ignorance with an idiots welcoming grin.

I am not just complaining about the CON because I find it distasteful. I am giving a dire warning about it because it is very important for a few different reasons. The first reason is that it is an affront to reason itself. The CON is one of the things which is contributing to the dumbing-down of humanity and ushering in the Idiocracy. The second reason is that we are entering an era of humanity that will center around the reputation of individuals. If the Reputation Economy of tomorrow is built upon the falsehoods and appearances of the CON, then we will be living in an Idiocracy in which everyone appears just as robotic, plasticine and saccharine sweet as The Stepford Wives. It will be a Nerf Hell or a Smile-Or-Die Dystopia. So my warning about this problem is not the revenge or ‘diss-track’ some people will think of it as, as they act out all of the ignorance I just warned against here. It is the solemn cautioning of a Trojan Horse at our gates. If we invite the CON into our lives because it sure does look pretty great on the outside, we are gonna be in for a big surprise when it starts unpacking its dangerous contents. Consider this a warning.

Just because I am suggesting that you do not take part in compulsive and coercive niceness does not mean that I endorse its opposite, compulsive and coercive assholery. Sometimes being an asshole, or doing things you know will get you labeled as one, is the course of action that will lead to the best outcomes for all. But doing it compulsively and as an act of senseless aggression is really just the same problem. The world has no shortage of people who are assholes just for sport. The internet is full of these people. This is not the opposite of the CON, it is just the other side of the same bad coin. Trying to exploit peoples weakness by provoking an emotional response just to reward, gratify or validate ones self is a giant pitfall we must avoid if we don’t wish to lead others over the edge of sanity like intellectual lemmings.

The CON is a dangerous social precedent to set. It is a falsehood of appearances with all of the philosophical complexity of a big purple dinosaur singing songs to children. It is important not to tread on the feelings of others for no good reason, but sometimes there are good reasons, and other times you cannot help how other will emotionally respond. Yet we cannot protect our Feelz to such a degree that it allows us to remain in ignorance to the extent that our species devolves intellectually in the process. Try to be nice when it is appropriate, but you are under no obligation to smile and nod bobble-headedly in the affirmative when the CON asks you to try their kool aid.

The Cult of Survivalism

cult of survivalism

In the past few decades an insidious ideology has taken root in the American consciousness. Based on irrational fears and a neurotic inability to accept the most basic facts of our existence, this pervasive worldview has infected every corner our culture. It transcends class, race, gender, sexuality, religion or any other categorical division. It often comes paired with extreme prejudice, xenophobia, paranoia and excessive hubris. It has penetrated our communities, institutions and even made its way into our recreation. This ideology, which elevates the quantitative measures of our existence far above its quality, is something I like to call the Cult of Survivalism.

If you think that this problem is limited to’ preppers’ and right-wing extremists, you have not been paying very close attention to your surroundings. Each day you are bombarded from every direction with subtle-to-glaringly direct messages about safety and survival. The constant reminder of your immortality paired with false-yet-profitable reassurances invades everything. It drives mindless consumerism, while it feeds endless warfare and the police state. It works as a reverse bait, attracting us away from our critical thinking, morality and ethical principles. It drives corporate profits and the growth of the state by manipulating and taking advantage of our greatest weakness. And it reverse engineers the tale of our journey through history to rationalize a crippling attachment to our own darkest thoughts and the terror they create for ourselves and others.

The Cult of Survivalism tells us that ‘survival is everything’. Whatever you have to do to come out alive is the right thing to do. An underlying tenet of this worldview is that death is not okay. Even in a nation full of people who supposedly tend to believe in a higher power and afterlife, death is lamented as an intolerable side effect of living. Our inability to come to terms with the inevitable and the uncertainty it entails causes even the truest believer in heaven or reincarnation to recoil at the thought of their own mortality.

We have become so obsessed with living that we have consented to waive the benefits it confers so long as a false sense of security is safely blanketed over every aspect of daily life. So irrationally deep has our fear of death become that we have allowed living to be put in a partially animated state in order to drag ourselves grudgingly through time without regard to meaning or purpose. And in the name of survival, not only will we surrender our freedoms, liberties and psychological well being to those who most threaten them, we beg of them to spare us the certain uncertainty we cannot escape even with the greatest leap of logic. So sanctimonious have we become about self-preservation, that we no longer care to question what we are preserving or why.

You will die. There may or not be an afterlife. What happens between then and now cannot be measured meaningfully in time, but only in joy, love, hope, creativity and the subjective qualities  that provide the meaning and purpose of our otherwise indefinable lives.

Our police are full of individuals who are trained in-house and by culture at large to ‘fear for their lives’. In doing so they kill indiscriminately. We forgive them even when it seems obviously unjustified because we sympathize with the fear, and not with the victim. Our military and its soldiers are praised for wanton killing, even if it involves more innocent casualties than targets killed, because they ‘die for us and protect our freedoms’.  Again, we rationalize wholesale death, not because it directly resulted in lives saved or improved, but because the symbolic gestures alone signify an emotional truth that does not reconcile at all with the observable truth.

Even those who promote individual liberty and recognize the deceitful machinations of the ruling elite are prone to survival at any cost ideologies. We use physicalist definitions of reality to ward ourselves against all other truths.

Television and other media are ripe with apocalyptic themes, from zombies and aliens, to all manner of existential risks. The zeitgeist of our time is an existential fear that eschews rational reflection of our being. We are constantly reminded to fear our death, be reminded how immanent it is, and asked to sacrifice our individuality, morality and ethics to avoid it. If this is the case, we might as well be dead. Death provides an uncertainty which implies limitless possibilities. The Cult of Survivalism reduces us to a mere part with a singular trivial purpose. It robs us of a curiosity and understanding towards the nature and inevitability of our demise. The Cult of Survivalism is the ultimate form of denial.

Today the United States and the western world claim to be at war with ‘terrorists’. However the definition of terrorism used by police and the military, as well as the other alphabet soup of government bureaucracies, is far more applicable to them than anyone else they supposedly ‘protect’ us from.

It is little wonder then that we are gripped with a pervasive cultural Islamaphobia. Any culture that produces even a fraction of people willing to die for a better quality of life are easy to label ‘others’. Those whose values are more important than their survival provide a direct threat to the American ideology that values can easily be cast aside if it facilitates even a tiny chance of existential endurance. And from this difference between us comes the justification of wholesale death. The world is doomed by our cultural bias toward Cult of Survivalism ideology, especially when it generates so much backlash against us and feeds an ever-growing cycle of violence. As long as two opposing groups are willing and able to find subjects to participate in a war of attrition, peace can never be made.

Accept death. Do not welcome nor fear it. Do not invite or needlessly deny it. Accept death and your life has meaning and purpose. Deny it and you also deny any justification for your own existence. The Cult of Survivalism is already passing around the cups, but so long as not all of us have drank their Kool Aid, there is still some hope to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy of total annihilation that is the central belief of their worldview.